Whatever you do, don’t stop praying… that the Conjuring universe is going to start having spin-offs that can live up to their ilk.
⭐ ⭐ ½
1952, Romania. After a young nun takes her own life at a monastery, the Vatican dispatches a priest, Father Burke (Demián Bichir), and a young novitiate, Sister Irene (Taissa Farmiga) to investigate. Guided by the monastery’s supply boy Frenchie (Jonas Bloquet), the pair soon find their stay in the foreboding castle take a turn for the life-threatening, as a supernatural presence reveals itself.
The mega-success of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe structure has long since left the realm of superhero blockbusters. Now, every studio is taking a crack across varying genres. The first horror shared universe – The Conjuring Universe – has a high hit-to-miss rate. The latest spin-off spook straight out of Ed and Lorraine Warren’s museum of haunted objects is The Nun, which is a bit of a small-fry next to its creepier predecessors.
Putting front-and-centre the scary sister who plagued Lorraine in The Conjuring 2, The Nun places us on the earliest point in the Conjuring timeline, some twenty years before the events of the main series. Heavily marketed as the “darkest chapter”, it’s ironically the lightest in terms of narrative, scares and overall substance. The Catholic investigation set-up is promising enough, but once the holy duo settles in at the monastery, all story progression is dropped in favour of set piece after set piece, few of which actually manage to rattle the bones.
The titular Nun herself fails to live up to her previously established eeriness. While certainly unsettling as a dark figure floating ominously in a hallway, up-close she’s all CGI fangs and bug-eyes, a goofy choice that drains all sense of dread.
Mother inferiors aside, The Nun still has its merits. Slickly shot and atmospheric, there’s at least enough entertainment value here. The cast mostly succeeds too, in particular the spirited Taissa Farmiga, who is every bit as watchable as her older sister Vera in the main Conjuring films. It’ll be interesting to see if they pair the two up in a future instalment. Of course, if the Conjuring cinematic universe is to endure, let’s hope they start putting the same amount of effort into their side dishes as they do the main course.
The Nun is available in Australian cinemas from September 6
Image courtesy of Roadshow Films